The Mahabharata Home
(Chaitraratha Parva continued)
"The Gandharva continued, 'There was, O Partha, a king in this world, named Kalmashapada, who was of the race of Ikshvaku and was unequalled on earth for prowess. One day the king went from his capital into the woods for purposes of hunting, and this grinder of foes pierced (with his arrows) many deer and wild boars. And in those deep woods the king also slew many rhinoceroses. Engaged in sport for some length of time, the monarch became very much fatigued and at last he gave up the chase, desiring to rest awhile.
"The great Viswamitra, endued with energy, had, a little while ago, desired to make that monarch his disciple. As the monarch, afflicted with hunger and thirst, was proceeding through the woods, he came across that best of Rishis, the illustrious son of Vasishtha, coming along the same path. The king ever victorious in battle saw that Muni bearing the name of Saktri, that illustrious propagator of Vasishtha's race, the eldest of the high-souled Vasishtha's hundred sons, coming along from opposite direction. The king, beholding him said, 'Stand out of our way.' The Rishi, addressing the monarch in a conciliatory manner, said unto him sweetly, 'O king, this is my way. This is the eternal rule of morality indicated in every treatise on duty and religion, viz., that a king should ever make way for Brahmanas.' Thus did they address each other respecting their right of way. 'Stand aside, stand aside', were the words they said unto each other. The Rishi, who was in the right, did not yield, nor did the king yield to him from pride and anger. That best of monarchs, enraged at the Rishi, refusing to yield him the way, acted like a Rakshasa, striking him with his whip. Thus whipped by the monarch, that best of Rishis, the son of Vasishtha, was deprived of his senses by anger, and speedily cursed that first of monarchs, saying, 'O worst of kings, since thou persecutest like a Rakshasa an ascetic, thou shalt from this day, became a Rakshasa subsisting on human flesh! Hence, thou worst of kings! thou shalt wander over the earth, affecting human form!' Thus did the Rishi Sakti, endued with great prowess, speak unto king Kalmashapada. At this time Viswamitra, between whom and Vasishtha there was a dispute about the discipleship of Kalmashapada, approached the place
where that monarch and Vasishtha's son were. And, O Partha, that Rishi of severe ascetic penances, viz., Viswamitra of great energy, approached the pair (knowing by his spiritual insight that they had been thus quarrelling with each other). After the curse had been pronounced, that best of monarchs knew that Rishi to be Vasishtha's son and equal unto Vasishtha himself in energy. And, O Bharata, Viswamitra, desirous of benefiting himself, remained on that spot, concealed from the sight of both by making himself invisible. Then that best of monarchs, thus cursed by Saktri, desiring to propitiate the Rishi began to humbly beseech him. And, O chief of the Kurus, Viswamitra, ascertaining the disposition of the king (and fearing that the difference might be made up), ordered a Rakshasa to enter the body of the king. And a Rakshasa of the name of Kinkara then entered the monarch's body in obedience to Saktri's curse and Viswamitra's command. And knowing, O chastiser of foes, that the Rakshasa had possessed himself of the monarch, that best of Rishis, Viswamitra, then left the spot and went away.
"Shortly after, O Partha, the monarch, possessed by the Rakshasa and terribly afflicted by him, lost all his senses. At this time a Brahmana beheld the king in the woods. Afflicted with hunger, that Brahmana begged of the king some food with meat. The royal sage, Kalmashapada, that cherisher of friends, answered the Brahmana, saying, 'Stay thou here, O Brahmana for a moment. On my return, I will give thee whatever food thou desirest.' Having said this, the monarch went away, but the Brahmana stayed on there. The high-minded king having roved for some time at pleasure and according to his will, at last entered his inner apartment. Thus waking at midnight and remembering his promise, he summoned his cook and told him of his promise unto the Brahmana staying in the forest. And he commanded him, saying, 'Hie thee to that forest. A Brahmana waiteth for me in the hope of food. Go and entertain him with food and meat.'
"The Gandharva continued, 'Thus commanded, the cook went out in search of meat. Distressed at not having found any, he informed the king of his failure. The monarch, however, possessed as he was by the Rakshasa, repeatedly said, without scruple of any kind, 'Feed him with human flesh.' The cook, saying, 'So be it,' went to the place where the (king's) executioners were, and thence taking human flesh and washing and cooking it duly and covering it with boiled rice offered it unto that hungry Brahmana devoted to ascetic penances. But that best of Brahmanas, seeing with his spiritual sight that the food was unholy and, therefore, unworthy of being eaten, said these words with eyes red with anger, 'Because that worst of kings offereth me food that is unholy and unworthy of being taken, therefore that wretch shall have himself a fondness for such food. And becoming fond of human flesh as cursed by Saktri of old, the wretch shall wander over the earth, alarming and otherwise troubling all creatures.' The curse, therefore, on that king, thus repeated a second time, became very strong,
and the king, possessed by a Rakshasa disposition, soon lost all his senses.
"A little while after, O Bharata, that best of monarchs, deprived of all his senses by the Rakshasa within him, beholding Saktri who had cursed him, said, 'Because thou hast pronounced on me this extraordinary curse, therefore, I shall begin my life of cannibalism by devouring thee.' Having said this, the king immediately slew Saktri and ate him up, like a tiger eating the animal it was fond of. Beholding Saktri thus slain and devoured, Viswamitra repeatedly urged that Rakshasa (who was within the monarch) against the other sons of Vasishtha. Like a wrathful lion devouring small animals, that Rakshasa soon devoured the other sons of the illustrious Vasishtha that were junior to Saktri in age. But Vasishtha, learning that all his sons had been caused to be slain by Viswamitra, patiently bore his grief like the great mountain that bears the earth. That best of Munis, that foremost of intelligent men, was resolved rather to sacrifice his own life than exterminate (in anger) the race of Kusikas. The illustrious Rishi threw himself down from the summit of Meru, but he descended on the stony ground as though on a heap of cotton. And, O son of Pandu, when the illustrious one found that death did not result from that fall, he kindled a huge fire in the forest and entered it with alacrity. But that fire, though burning brightly, consumed him not. O slayer of foes, that blazing fire seemed to him cool. Then the great Muni under the influence of grief, beholding the sea, tied a stony weight to his neck and threw himself into its waters. But the waves soon cast him ashore. At last when that Brahmana of rigid vows succeeded not in killing himself by any means, he returned, in distress of heart, to his asylum.'"
Next: Section CLXXIX